A.J. Walker



Mid Week Flash Challenge: Week 271


No one had expected the end of the world to be so everyday random. I’d remember people fearing a new ice age, then the oceans overflowing with the poles melting, there were nuclear wars, asteroids, even aliens coming here and maybe using us as livestock. But no. When the end came it was our apathy.

When the virus first came it was often like a cold. Though it killed some outright it was okay: it was only the old or ill. Then came the mutations. It became more or less virulent and did more or less as it went. Everyone got it. Like a cold it was. There were random mutations and even more random effects as it rippled around the world. Some people tried not to avoid it, but most resigned themselves to its inevitability.

I knew some people who caught it who couldn’t walk down their stairs without needing oxygen. My mate, Phil, decided to stop going to bed and slept on his sofa to avoid the daily grind of the stairs: then he had difficult toilet decisions. Talking of toilet issues, Aunt Gloria ended up being one of the unlucky ones who lost control of her bowels. Derek from next door lost his eyesight. Bill from the other side lost feelings in his legs, whilst his wife (I always forget her name) was one of the many who won the accelerated dementia lottery. She sang the same song for weeks when she got it. When the singing stopped I knew it was all over.

To begin with, as the later mutations traversed the globe, we watched on the TV. There was so much to take in. It was just a cold. When mum and dad, and my two brothers, passed away in the space of a week I knew it wasn’t.

The headlines showed countries pulling up drawbridges. Economies collapsed in no time. There were some rioting, looting and whatnot. But not as much as you’d expect. I mean the banks stopped working. But the shops had nothing to sell anyway. No one worked. Just a cold.

I hid away in the basement for a week. If I didn’t see anyone then surely I could protect myself. No one came to the house. When I did venture out there was no-one around. The TV was useless: there was no electricity. I vowed to get some batteries for my radio. Surely there’d be someone broadcasting.

I got some batteries from a shopping centre where all the windows had been smashed in. It was a perplexing sight. All the windows gone but hardly anything stolen. I tried to think what had happened during my week of basement seclusion. In the end I picked up a few items to eat and drink. I wondered how I’d cook them without electricity – I hadn’t checked the gas, but that went hand in hand usually. The roads were dead. Where was everybody?

The houses between the shops and mine seemed undamaged. No broken windows, no smashed in or even open doors. It looked like any quiet Sunday: but no one was mowing lawns or going for a drive. I began to go up to the houses and one by one look through the windows, I even knocked on some doors. Eventually I saw people. Dead people. Most were just sat in chairs or on sofas in front of dead televisions. Just in ones and twos. The people who’d lived there. My neighbours. Dead. Only a cold.

Stood on the corner of my estate I saw a flyer stuck on a lamppost. ‘The End is Nigh! Repent and Be Saved.’ I longed for someone to come around the corner walking their dog. Someone who could tell me what had happened. I saw a anewspaper jutting out of a letterbox at No.17 and grabbed it. The front page was all about the virus. Apparently the latest symptoms had become more cerebral than previous ones, it stated that almost universally the new strain was resulting in severe ‘Listlessness & Apathy.’

Back at the house I opened a tin of beans and ate them cold out of the tin. I could feel the empty estate around me, the country, the world. Fuck, the world had died of listlessness and apathy. No one had seen that coming. I thought about typing up my thoughts on it. But who would read it? I dropped the batteries by my radio, but didn’t put them in. What was the point?